Books on Croatia
Update No: 133 - (30/06/08)
The Illyrian-cum-Croatian predicament
The Croats have always been very historically-minded. They were centrally
important in Roman times, being the natural bridge between the Western and
Eastern Roman Empires. It was logical that the later emperors who counted should
have come from Croatia (actually Illyria in those days), notably Diocletian and
the most significant of them all, Constantine, who converted the empire to
Christianity and shifted its capital to Constantinople.
In more recent times Croatia's most famous son was Tito (actually with a Slovene
mother), the leader of the Partisans in the Second World War and the founder of
Communist Yugoslavia. He took Yugoslavia out of the communist bloc in 1948 in
defiance of Stalin, an act that prefigured the collapse of communism just over
forty years later, the last thing that he would have suspected. But not perhaps
Sir Fitzroy Maclean, the British mediator between Churchill and Tito, who
commended him to the Albion war leader as a man of his own kidney.
Initially acts of great brutality were perpetrated; opponents of the regime,
adherents of the Ustase, or the quasi-monarchist, but, alas, fascistoid, enemies
of the Partisans (returned by the British in 1945 much to the astonishment of
their new captors) were simply shot out of hand. Yet thereafter he sort of
improved - for a Marxist that is.
Tito presided for decades over a vibrant market economy, being the one communist
leader to realise that there was something to be learnt from Adam Smith. He was
also the only one to be demonstrably not a fanatic; when asked what would have
happened to him if he had been born in the US, not in Croatia, he said: "I
would have become the head of General Motors." He allowed foreign
investment to thrive.
He was, indeed, a born leader. His death in 1980 was a dire event for
Yugoslavia. It presaged its end. He was the one man who could have perhaps kept
But it was not to be.
Yugoslavia collapsed. What next?
There was an obvious successor to Yugoslavia, its set of constituent states,
Croatia included. There was one man who realised this, a mountebank, but another
born leader, Franjo Tudjman. He played the nationalist card for all it was
worth. Never has there been a greater exponent of Dr Johnsons' dictum; "
patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."
He instigated the wars of the early 1990s that rent Yugoslavia apart, that is
with the willing help of Milosevic. These were the terrible twins that did the
Tudjman had the decency to expire in December, 1999 – to allow Croatia a new
dispensation for a new millennium.
It took a little time to work out
After a listless sojourn of nostalgic Social Democracy, Ivo Sanader was
appointed prime minister, once his Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the
country's general election in late November 2003.
He has indicated an entirely new course. He has listed EU and NATO integration
among his key priorities. Croatia is no longer to be Balkan, but European,
Profile of the new power-broker
It is worth conveying the calibre of the new man in Zaghreb.
Sanader was born on June 8, 1953 in Split, Croatia. Benefiting from the
comparative liberalism of the Tito period, he attended the University of
Innsbruck in Austria, where he studied Comparative Literature and Romance
Upon his return to Croatia, Sanader worked in the Dalmacijaturist tourist
agency's marketing office. In 1988 he became editor-in-chief of the Logos
publishing house. At the time, he was also one of the editors of the magazine
Mogucnosti (Possibilities). In 1991, Sanadar took up a management position at
the National Theatre in Split.
In August of 1992, after being elected to the House of Representatives of the
Croatian Parliament, Sanader became minister of science and technology, a
position he held until January 1993.
Sanader was subsequently appointed deputy foreign minister. In this new post, he
participated in the bilateral talks which led to the establishment of the
Croat-Muslim Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH). He also helped
negotiate the elimination of the visa regime for Croatian citizens travelling to
Greece. During this period, Sanader joined his party's Central Committee.
At the end of November 1995, following the Dayton Peace Accords, Sanader left
the cabinet to become chief of staff to then Croatian President Franjo Tudjman,
who also appointed him secretary general of the Defense and National Security
Council and a member of the Presidential Council.
In January 1996, he became a member of the Joint Council for Co-operation
between the Croatia and FBiH. Later, Sanader was appointed for a second time as
deputy foreign minister.
In 1998, he was elected president of HDZ, and worked to modernise and strengthen
"My priorities are raising the living standards at home, gaining membership
in NATO and the EU and resolving open issues with our neighbours," Sanader
said following his designation as prime minister by Croatian President Stipe
Mesic. He emphasised that the HDZ has broken with its authoritarian past and
become a mainstream conservative party.